Liberty Leading the People, 2014, is a digitally constructed work which explores the Scottish Independence referendum with reference to Eugene Delacroix’s (1798–1863) iconic image of French nationhood. Delacroix’s painting had a powerful impact as a statement of nationalism when it was first exhibited in Paris in 1831 and O’Donnell gives full rein to his trademark subversive humour, posing himself as every figure, wielding a series of ineffectual plastic weapons and even crossing the barricade as Liberty herself.
This project was initiated during the Scottish Independence Referendum 2014. I wanted to make visual sense of this momentous juncture in the history of Scotland. I was aware of the painting by Eugene Delacroix (French 1798- 1863) Liberty Leading the People (1830) the painting is about freedom and revolution, in 1830, Delacroix witnessed historic events that led to his most famous painting. On July 27th, 28th, and 29th, growing unrest in Paris exploded into revolution. Parisians took up arms and increasingly flew the Tricolour flag in place of the white flag of the Bourbons. Three days of fighting in the streets toppled the Bourbon King Charles X and placed King Louis Philippe, the duc d’Orleans, on the throne. This revolution became known as Trois Glorieuses, or Three Glorious Days. Delacroix’s political masterpiece is a moment of radical freedom when anything seemed possible. it is both a political and allegorical work. An important deviation from the neoclassicism of the day, it illustrates French Romanticism, a steppingstone to the realist painting of Gustave Courbet (1819-77).
This painting served as a symbol of the political situation in Scotland in 2014, and as such would be perfect vehicle to visualise the Scottish referendum. The purpose of this reconstructed work is not to make the same political point as Delacroix, I wanted a more balanced approach for example the figure kneeling has two ballot papers in his hand Yes and No.
Leisure and Culture Dundee’s McManus Art Gallery and Museums fine art collection is a Recognised Collection of National Significance and particularly strong in Scottish fine art photography. The acquisition of two photographs by Ron O’Donnell whose colourful, exuberant work is full of contemporary references. No Articles Beyond This Point, 2001, from The Day of the Dead series, widely regarded as O’Donnell’s most distinctive body of constructed works, is a series of images exploring the theme of death and resurrection.